I remember a time when for me to find a certain image on my computer it would take a good few minutes and sometimes even hours because I would give up trying to find it. I would have all these "Untitled Folders" created all over my computer's hard drive, how can you ever find something that way?
When I started taking photos as a hobby I knew I had to come up with a system that would work for me, otherwise my life would be a nightmare trying to find anything. I will share how I manage my photos here and maybe this will help someone else as well. This method has been working for me, I'm sure there are other ways as well.
Under my "Pictures" folder I created and named folders with different years as their names and I populated those folders with more specific folder names. Let's say in 2014 I took many landscape photos, I name a folder "Landscape" and I place this folder under the folder "2014", that way I avoid to have thousands of folders under the same main folder "Pictures". The same is true for all other photos.. I might have photos for cityscape, portraits, macros and so on.. each photo goes under their respective folder, under the respective year it was taken, easy right?
Now, let's say I have a folder for Portraits but then I have 10 session with different models, what I do is, I create 10 different folders and I name them the same name as of the models and I place them all under the Portrait Folder.
So that's good so far.. but many years down road you want to find a session you did for a Model, let's call her "Carly" and you named the folder "Carly" as well. A simple search on Mac or PC should find it right? Yes, and if you only take a few photos or have a few photos on your computer then this simple folder structure ought do it, but if you are a photographer or take/have lots of pictures then you might need something more advanced to help you find photos faster.
I use Adobe Lightroom available for Macs and PC ($150.00) to both post process and organize my images. Lightroom is great because it askes you where you want to store your photos when importing from an external source such as an sdcard, and if you are importing photos that are already in your computer, lightroom will just add them to the lightroom catalog without moving them from their origin folder, although you can also copy and move files and folders to different locations if you prefer.
During import, Lightroom will present you with a few options and one of them will be to add keywords to the imported photos, that's the key element here. By adding keywords to photos you are importing, you can then later on search for them with extreme easy.
You can also add keywords to existing photos by going to the library module, selecting the photos and typing the words you want to add in the keyword box, as shown in the image below. You can add more than one keyword and use spaces between words.
One way to find your photos is by going to the library module, then on top you have this bar called "Library Filter", you can use different methods for searching here including "text" which would be useful if your photos have keywords. You can also use multiple variables here, you can search for a certain camera, a star rating, all while looking for keywords at the same time. A great way to narrow it down to what you are looking for.
Another way to find and this is really cool is by creating a "Smart Collection". In a smart collection you can also use more than one variable to find your images, you can create a collection in which lightroom will look for the filters you added such as keyword but also narrow it down to only photos you gave it a 5 star rating, a certain lens, shutter speed and so on. You can get really specific. The difference here from the library search is that you are creating a collection, and the collection will be here every time you open up lightroom. Also, any changes you make to your photos the collection will be updated automatically, if for example you changed the rating from 5 to 4 stars.. the image will no longer be in the collection if one of the filters is set to look for 5 star photos ;)
That's it, two really simple ways that helped me a lot. Of course that are other ways to organize photos and documents, this is the one I'm working with and it has been working ok. Hopefully someone will find this helpful as well.